Max Kamin-Cross is a consultant and writer. He is on the Planned Parenthood Young Leaders Advisory Council and is an Education Ambassador for MTV’s It’s Your (Sex) Life program. Max is the advocacy writer for Scarleteen.com and lobbies on both state and national levels for equal access to healthcare and reproductive rights. He is a senior at Pittsford Mendon High School and can be reached at Max.Kamin.Cross@gmail.com or on Twitter @MaxKaminCross
Under new regulations issued by the Obama administration, health insurance companies will have to cover contraceptives with no co-pay. These new requirements, which will begin to take effect at the start of 2013, are prompted by a report from a panel of experts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). After a near-unanimous decision by the panel, the Department of Health and Human Services took their advice and issued the new regulations.
In the United States about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, costing tax payers more than of $11 billion a year in public insurance costs for pregnancy and first-year infant care. While the new regulations are unlikely to have a major effect on the number of unplanned pregnancies in the short term, they will significantly change the lives of millions of Americans. For example, oral contraceptives are available for as little as $9 a month, but studies show that even a small co-pay reduces use. At no cost, contraception will be readily available to many more women.
Another positive outcome of expanding access to contraception is that it gives women and couples the ability to space out their pregnancies. Researchers have concluded that leaving 2-5 years between pregnancies helps ensure healthier babies. Recently it has been shown that the risk for autism triples for children born less than 2 years after their siblings, in comparison to those born more than 3 years after. Spacing births also decreases the risks of low birth weight and prematurity; which in turn decreases infant mortality.
More than 60 percent of total pregnancies are unintended in places like Southern Africa, and infant mortality rates are as high as 1 in 10 in Somalia. In developing countries, approximately one-third of adolescent girls give birth before they turn 20. In light of these statistics, I have to wonder what the result would be if contraceptives were made available for free to women in those countries. It would take time and money—distribution of the contraceptives alone would be a massive undertaking—but I believe that the long-term benefits would be greater than any other single project my generation could take on. The benefits would be astounding.
Would there be fewer unplanned pregnancies? Yes. Would planned pregnancies be healthier? Yes. Would each and every child live a better life? Yes. Would we create a better world for ourselves and generations to come? Yes.
So why not do it?